Saturday, 30 July 2011

Tutorial at Advances In Computer Entertainment 2011 conference

I have received confirmation this week that I will be delivering a half-day tutorial at the November Advances In Computer Entertainment 2011 conference in Lisbon, Portugal. This is titled "Using the Unreal Engine and Development Kit for Research Purposes".

There are two main objectives for this tutorial session. The first is to showcase the potential and also prior/existing use, via specific scientific literature examples, of the increasingly popular Unreal engine (and/or Unreal Development Kit, or UDK for short). The second is to expose the audience to some first fundamental lessons of using the engine and its editor.

These lessons could form the basis of using UDK in the future for research in a variery of directions, all under the computer entertainment/simulation/educational field. It is expected that, post-tutorial, the participants can walk away with both an understanding of how the engine is currently used in research but also tangible skills to put that to use in their respective areas.

I will be posting more about this tutorial in the coming months, meanwhile you can find more about the conference that houses it and its rates here.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Unity version 3.4 now out

An engine I have posted many times about in the past has just released its new version. Unity Technologies has now made available version 3.4 of its popular engine, a free update for existing version 3 users and with many new additions/improvements in tow.

Some of these include (most notably) the integration of Allegorithmic's Substance technology assisting with procedural texturing, editor enhancements such as for example user-assignable Scene View icons and modifiable primitive colliders plus performance optimizations in many areas such as shadow renderering, and others.

A complete (and quite extensive) list of all new features/additions can be found at while the engine itself can be dowloaded at

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Intel's CPU-powered new anti-aliasing technique

Intel has outlined a new type of anti-aliasing which can be achieved on the CPU in real-time. This is titled morphological anti-aliasing (or in short MLAA) and operates by applying a filter to every frame of the real-time application. MLAA will blend pixels on the edges with surrounding areas by looking for Z- and U-shaped edges which are then broken down into L-shaped ones (see pic below for an example of this).

Because of this the technique can be carried out procedurally in a very reliable and consistent manner (unlike other anti-aliasing techniques) and could be particularly useful for mobile devices too (where CPUs and GPUs are now one chipset). This can be an important computer graphics development as it has been predicted (for a few years now it has to be said) that CPUs will enter the rendering pipeline far more prominently. The full Intel article can be found here and there is even some source code for experimentation there.

Motion capture figure for character animation

A piece of kit I found extremely interesting; SoftEther's Quma is a 3D motion-capture figure which can be used as a human-like doll with joints equipped with sensors. Moving these joints recreates the motion on a 3D CGI figure so the principle is very simple and also very reminiscent of an up-to-date form of stop motion animation.

A very nice idea (which you can see in the YouTube clip above), there is no release date or price yet though the company states the hardware is ready to go in production.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Stop motion animation for an urban environment

Spotted this on the Digital Urban blog and thought I'd post something about it too; Miguel Warrand has created an excellent stop motion animation while studying digital art which focuses on an urban environment with heavy traffic and traffic jams. You can see the video of this below and is well worth checking out both for advocates of stop motion and visual effects but also urban modellers who can draw inspiration from new ways of visualising urban environments and their animation.

What is of even more interest for me is the hand-painted, non-photorealistic pencil-sketched effect achieved in the video which makes it even more appealling. A great piece of work.

Augmented Planet, and augmented reality blog

Augmented Planet is an augmented reality blog recommended to me by one of the PhD students I am involved in the supervision for and is indeed an excellent AR blog for those who want to catch new developments in the area. With a heavy emphasis on mobile AR, the blog covers AR browsers, web augmented reality, mobile (and particularly iPhone) AR apps, related events, an AR job search section and other topics which are relevant to the issue. Incredible to see how far the medium has come along since I first started looking into AR for mobile in 2005!

Anyone with an interest in AR shoulc check this out at

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Non-photorealistic rendering in Unreal 3

Currently doing some research on Unreal 3/UDK related matters in preparation of something that I will possibly be able to post on soon and I have come across this link here; it is a description of using UDK settings to create a cartoon shader (which works quite well too, as can be seen in the pic below) in the official Unreal Developer Network.

The process uses Sobel edge detection which operates by calculating the gradient of the image intensity at each pixel and then producing a value which correlates to how abruptly the image changes. Very interesting to see this implemented step by step (the instructions in creating the shader are very thorough in the link above) and a very powerful and potent reminder of the real-time visualization potential of NPR styles with modern gaming engines.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Gameloft's first Unreal engine iOS title

One of the most prolific iOS game developers, Gameloft, will be using Epic Games' Unreal engine on a game called March of Heroes. A trailer for this has now become available and it is eagerly anticipated in terms of seeing what a developer such as Gameloft can do with the technology (following hot on the heels of titles such as the very impressive Infinity Blade), rather than their own proprietary engine.

The very Black Ops-like March Of Heroes looks quite impressive in the trailer above (though obviously will not be winning any originality awards anytime soon!) and is a strong reminder of the potential the UDK technology has for mobile gaming.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Sandbox 3 receives update

A few days ago I posted the release of the Sandbox 3 level editor for the CryEngine, which was eagerly anticipated by the modding community. It appears that Crytek has now released an update which fixes many of the problems of the early version of the (free) application. This is version 1.1.

These are the following (taken from the Crymod website, here);

"• Added FMOD Designer to Mod SDK
• Added editor.cfg being installed into Crysis 2 root folder to enable useful default settings for custom animations
• Fixed a bug with CryMaxTools in 3DS Max not being functional
• Fixed a bug with not working automatic installation of into respective 3DS Max installation
• Fixed registry warning when starting Sandbox 3 Editor on Vista/Win7 machines
• Fixed installation error “Error: Could not access network location $MOBU11_64_PATH$” on 32-bit operating systems”
• Fixed 32-bit CryTIFF plugin being installed into Photoshop 64-bit version
• Fixed .bat file for CryMaxTools not installing plugins and tools for all 3DS Max versions properly
• Fixed a bug with 64-bit 3DS Max plugins getting installed into 32-bit 3DS Max if both are the same release version.
• Fixed a bug with the 3DS Max Exporter not working properly with exporting animations.
• Fixed a bug with the 3DS Max 9 installation to only include plugins from now on as CryMaxTools are not supported for this version.
• Fixed a bug where some installed 3DS Max versions did not show up for automatic plugin installation
• Removed automatic 64-bit 3DS Max plugin and tools installation (requires manual installation).
• Removed Motion Builder as it is no longer supported
• Sandbox (64bit) is a mandatory installation
• Significantly reduced size of the installer"

You will be needing the Crysis 2 game installed to run this incidentally. I will post some examples of the first few projects emerging out of this over the next few weeks, at the moment the community seems to be learning the ropes of the new tool.

Friday, 15 July 2011

UDK used for architectural visualization

As another example of using a modern first-person shooter game engine for architectural visualization, Epic Games have posted the work of Luigi Russo, a student in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Naples, Italy. With the help of the (freeware) Blender for model creation and the Unreal Development Kit (UDK), the student has produced a fairly impressive and realistic walkthrough (as is evident in the pic below).

A search on YouTube will reveal many more architects using tools such as the UDK (or the CryEngine) for visualizing spaces for their projects and it appears this could turn into a major area of where software like that could also be used (in addition to entertainment purposes of course). Meanwhile, you can check out Luigi's walkthrough here.

BloodRayne: Betrayal, another NPR game

BloodRayne: Betrayal is soon to hit the PSN and XBLA as a digital-only release (on August the 30th and 31st respectively). Developed by WayForward, the game builds on an established franchise/brand (which briefly even took to Hollywood a few years ago, albeit not particularly successfully).

The interesting part about this release is the 2D focus (slightly reminiscent of the Castlevania franchise) but, more importantly, the incredible hand-painted, non-photorealistic graphics the game comes with (look at the pic above).

Procedural bought by ESRI

Procedural, a company producing an urban modelling tool (CityEngine) I have blogged about many times in the last few years, has now been bought out by ESRI. ESRI has been around since 1969 and is most famous for the very popular GIS tool called ArcGIS. It is believed that CityEngine will be integrated with that but also remain available as standalone too.

CityEngine has been making the news for quite awhile now with some very high profile clients using it for their city modelling needs, so I suppose this was inevitable. Furthermore, integrating this with ArcGIS could prove to be a masterstroke as ArcGIS' 3D urban modelling functionality will be significantly spruced up as a result of this.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

SIGGRAPH 2011 coming up

This year I will, for the first time, attend the prestigious SIGGRAPH conference (despite of the fact that I had a paper in SIGGRAPH Asia last year, see older post here) and needless to say I am very much looking forward to attending the sessions of what is one of the biggest conferences in the world. Taking place in Vancouver, Canada in early August, the event takes in contributions from computer graphics researchers, games developers, animators, industry experts and many others for what is a wholly comprehensive event.

I will report more on this in August, till then you can visit the official site of the conference (which it should be noted has its 38th outing this year) here.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Monkey Island remakes receiving retail release

Having invested only in the iPhone versions of these so far, I was delighted to hear that the recent excellent remakes of Monkey Island 1 and 2 by Lucasarts, two of the finest adventure games ever and also complete with incredible hand-drawn non-photorealistic graphics, will now receive a boxed release on the 9th of September.

These HD remakes were available as digital-only so far, complete with an incredibly cool feature that allowed the player to switch from original graphics to HD remake ones at any point during the game. There will also be bonus features such as concept art material and pre-production content from an unrealised film to entice fans to invest in these, as well as playable soundtracks. The platforms, as with the digital versions, will be PC, XBox 360 and PS3.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

CryEngine's Sandbox 3 Level Editor now freely available

I have just noticed that at long last Crytek has made available a level editor for Crysis 2, available for free on its website! This is titled Sandbox 3 Editor and also includes tools such as MOD Designer, Poly Bump, plugins for Maya and 3ds Max plus sample assets.

I've not yet played with this (or read any comments on it) but given the fact it's only been out there for a few days and it has over 150,000 downloads already speaks volumes! The level editor can be downloaded from here.

Valve's Source SDK is now free

Valve's Source SDK is now free. This is followed by the news that Team Fortress 2 (one of Valve's most popular games and incidentally one of the most prominent non-photorealistically rendered gaming titles around today) is also becoming freely available (see here).

The engine has been around for a while (which does prompt the question on whether Valve is working on a replacement) but this is still fantastic news, remember this is the engine behind iconic games like Half Life 2. More information on the Source website here, which incidentally has a section for educators teaching game design (such as myself).